Satellite Imagery Reveals Midwest Farm Crop Stress
Farm challenges in the southwestern Midwest are showing up, but the advanced nature of this year’s crops yield misleading signals on satellite data.
Published: Jun 29, 2012
Farm Futures has partnered with the Ecology and Agriculture Spatial Analysis Laboratory (EASAL) at Kansas State University to bring these maps to you. Each map is composed from satellite data taken over a two-week period. The EASAL maps show current farm vegetative health for the past two weeks and compare vegetative health with the previous two-week period, with the previous year and with the long-term average. Green reflects healthy vegetative development, while brown reflects a lack of healthy vegetative biomass production.
Satellite imagery shows active vegetative growth on the West Coast and in many areas of the eastern half of the Lower 48 states. Heat and dryness is dramatically slowing vegetative growth in the western Plains, but photosynthetic activity is quite strong in the central Appalachians and the northern Great Lakes.
The first thing that stands out in the satellite imagery graphic that shows photosynthetic activity compared to the 23-year average is the strong crop growth in eastern Nebraska, southern Minnesota, the northwestern half of Iowa, much of the northern half of Illinois and northwestern Indiana. Some of these areas, particularly the western portion of the above area, did receive rains that increased photosynthetic activity. However, much of the greater activity is also simply due to the advanced nature of this year’s farm crops relative to normal. On the other hand, heat and dryness is taking its toll on the western Plains, resulting in less crop health relative to normal.
Photosynthetic activity improved over the previous two weeks portions of northwestern Iowa, southeastern Minnesota, and scattered areas of the eastern Midwest. Some of this was due to scattered showers in the region giving the crop a boost and some of it was due to the advanced maturity of the crops.
The 2012 corn crop really shows up on this graphic; with the advanced maturity of the crop, relative to a year ago, giving the impression that it is healthier than a year ago. In some cases that is true, but much of the greater photosynthetic activity showing up on the satellite imagery is merely due to the advanced progress of farm crops this year.
Rainfall in the southern Plains is still below normal in many areas, but it is better than it was a year ago, resulting in increased photosynthetic activity. Ironically, crop health appears to be much worse than year ago levels in portions of the central Plains, even though this year’s heat started later than it did in 2011.
This graphic shows the long-term average vegetative health for this time of year.
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